Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Some thoughts on prayer (that Facebook keeps ejecting)

On the Atheist Prayer Experiment Facebook page, quite a few participants have mentioned that praying for people/situations feels pointless, and that they would feel much better if they did something practical.  I agree.

I remember when I was in hospital having tests, at the time when it was becoming clear that my first kidney transplant was failing.  My mother - a lovely woman and a Christian, but not the most subtle individual - asked some of my Christian friends why they had not been to visit me.  When they objected that they had been praying for me, she said "Big deal".  Truth is, I felt a lot more love from the people who bothered to stump up at hospital or took me out for a coffee and listened to me unload.  You prayed for me?  Yeah - big deal.

A phrase from my old Christian days has been running through my head: "God has no hands on earth but yours".

Christians: do you think you ever pop a two-minute prayer heavenward because it makes you feel like you've done something to help but actually it costs you nothing?  I'm pretty sure I was sometimes guilty of that back when I was a Christian.


  1. Prayer is not a cheap least when it comes from the heart. And sure, I've prayed quickly hoping it would let me off the hook of action.

    But let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater: prayer is a genuine response and an action of power, power that is not always visible, granted. So let's not dismiss all prayer as a useful response, simply because sometimes used it as an excuse.

    I think the real issue is a cultural one: that we are all so busy with our routine and our stuff that we are less and less connected with the needy people in our lives through flesh and blood ways like visiting in hospital, helping with housework, taking a cooked meal, babysitting kids, cleaning out gutters, doing the shopping etc. Again, I'm not saying we don't do this for there are some people and some communities who are marvelous in this regard; I'm just noticing that fewer people do this kind of thing anymore.

    Paddy, I'm sorry that you felt let down by your Christian friends.

    1. Hi Caroline,

      Thanks for this. It struck me, after I posted, that people who have read the blog and told me they're praying for me might feel slighted! Obviously, as an atheist, I don't believe there's a deity listening to the prayers and acting on them. Nevertheless, I am genuinely touched that people who know nothing about me care enough to pray.

      I agree with you about culture. I'm in London (I believe you're in the States) and, certainly, it can be quite an alienating place: people rushing around to meet their own schedules, rarely finding time to get to know neighbours, help others etc.

      As for my Christian friends, ah, I was disappointed but not badly hurt. I'll add that it was a wonderful Christian couple who more or less preserved my sanity during that difficult period. They were like a second mum and dad for me and I still love them dearly.

      All the best, Caroline. x

  2. Hi McGingersnap - hope you dont mind me commenting. I became a believer just 14 years ago - I wasnt brought up in a Christian family but I came to a point in my life where I decided to find out whether God was real or not - hence my interest in this prayer experiment! I know what it is like to be disappointed with Christians and disillusioned with a church....really I do! We have been shunned by the church we decided to leave two years ago - that was really painful and to be honest it still hurts - for our kids it was hard too as the folk there had become our church family over the seven years we were there - there is no contact now. And yet despite all the hurt and disappointment I cant help but pray - without God in my life it would seem so empty. My best friend died in February -- she needed a heart and lung transplant and had never known what it was like to feel well...ever! She decided to say no to the transplant - I was gutted- she was not expected to die so soon. She knew disappointment regularly - friends let her down so much - she missed out on so much being ill - she was unable to physically do much and relied on others and some of those she relied on let her down including me. She taught me that there was so much more than this life - she spoke of heaven and eternity - she showed forgiveness on a level that I have never seen before. Despite not being able to physically help others she did far more for me than any other friend has every done - she stayed in touch - she prayed for me and she loved me ....and she loved even those who showed little care. Prayer to me is communication with God, part of a relationship. I have friends who I love dearly and they accept me and love me as a Christian as I accept their lives as they live theirs - but sadly all they have ever experienced from Christians is being judged, rejection and definitely not love - this makes me so sad as Christians are not all like that - I long for them to know the Heavenly father I am getting to know. Sorry if I have waffled on and taken a whole load of your blog space! I just want you to know that I am praying for you xx